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I’m sure at one point or another you have been worried about having to present yourself in an uncomfortable setting, be it a job interview, a date or asking the nice lady at the bank why your loan has been denied for the 12th time. And in your pursuit of advice you have more than likely heard the phrase “just put your best foot forward”. It’s one of those classic phrases you hear everywhere from motivational speeches to self-help books. And I’ve got a serious bone to pick with that piece of advice or at the very least with how people interpret what it means.

Well what if I told you that it is terrible advice that’s actually sabotaging your long term relationships. Let me explain:

The prosthetic foot problem

The core principle behind putting your best foot forward is to present yourself at your very best, to highlight your best traits and to downplay (or let’s be honest, flat out hide) your less appealing ones. This is why I find it to be terrible advice, because it encourages people to present a version of themselves they “think” the other person would like them to be. You’re not putting your “best” foot forward but rather a fake, a “prosthetic foot” if you will.

The more this projected image strays from an individual’s authentic self, the worse the long term consequences will be when this created persona starts to crack. And rest assured it will crack sooner or later, usually when you get whatever it is that prompted you to put on this persona in the first place. Inevitably you will become too drained to maintain a character that contradicts your true nature.

To everyone who thought they knew the real you, it can be a frustrating and disappointing revelation to find out that you were not in fact the person who you claimed to be.

I’d argue this is in large part why so many relationships fall apart after the “honeymoon” phase. Since you’re so concerned with getting the other person to like you when you initially start dating, not only do you conceal the least desirable aspects of your own personality, but you also excuse any characteristics you may not like about the other person.

The irony of that is that if you voice your opinions about what you dislike, despite risking sounding mean, you’re more likely to have a better relationship than if you bite your tongue and allow for feelings of resentment to fester.

So where does that leave us?

So rather than putting your “best foot forward” in the form of a made up personality, the better thing to do would be to put your “true foot forward”. Authenticity should take precedence over allure. Now I’m not saying you should just burp and fart your way through every date or tell the interviewing manager that you’re just there for the money because that’s also not going to get you very far either.

Being authentic doesn’t mean laying all your cards on the table immediately and revealing every little secret you have or every unappealing characteristic, but it does mean being honest, consistent and true to your values. Being true to yourself means taking responsibility for your actions, acknowledging your shortcomings and admitting that despite what your Instagram profile might have people believe, you are not in fact perfect, but rather a constant work in progress.

And while that all may sound simple and straight forward to do there’s a very good reason people don’t do it and instead opt to conceal many facets of their true identity. That’s because being authentic requires a lot of courage. The courage to be disliked for opinions or beliefs that might go against the grain. Courage to be the only person in the room who disagrees with the popular opinion. Admittedly, the world can be a nasty and judgmental place, and the internet has definitely not helped that fact. But isn’t it better to be appreciated for who you are than being praised for something you’re not.  

Because in case you’ve never experienced it let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than being in a room full of people and feeling a sense of complete loneliness. The feeling of “these people have no idea who I really am and I have zero in common with any of them”. The relationships that are built on false pretense will never be as meaningful, rewarding and sustainable as the ones that start from a place of honesty and understanding.

So in a world where everyone tries to give off the impression that their shit don’t stink it’s time we prioritize being authentic over projecting some illusion of perfection. This approach might not win you any favours at first, but long term it will foster connections built on honesty and understanding. After all, the world doesn’t need more perfect personas; it needs more genuine people.

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